Great Glory

In November of 2000, Sharp released the J-SH04 camera phone to the Japanese market. It was the first camera phone that allowed images to be sent electronically.  The phone allowed storage of 20 pictures and cost $500.  BBC reporter, Jon Wurtzel asked his readers what on earth they would do with a phone that had a camera; this is what they said[1]:

Take pictures of friendly dogs I see when I walk around.
John, US
I would use the camera phone to take pictures of my best friend, my dog Benson.
Miles Brown, England
I would use the camera during business meetings to take sneaky pictures of competitors’ notes for analysis later.
Levi Buckley, UK
I can't wait. There's so much I'm looking forward to photographing ... grumpy commuters, clouds, sleeping dogs, minor vehicle collisions in car parks, geese, steam, have-a-go-heroes, ... and then presumably I'll be able to email the pictures to all my friends.
Glenn Broadway, UK
I would like to use it when I am very angry, like when I have taken a day off work and a tradesman does not appear. I would also use it to express joy, like when I am especially pleased by a present. As an amateur artist it would also help to show what I am currently working on, to enquirers.
John Cornish, Australia
Infinite uses for the teenager, not entirely sure what the rest of us would do with one though.
Lizz, UK

It is hard to imagine that the camera phone was only invented 14 years ago.  There have been infinite uses of the camera phone including sending pictures to your friends of your dessert during date night, taking selfies during sporting events, and taking thousands of pictures of your children doing cute things.

            Although camera phones are useful, they are not always helpful. Images have overtaken our culture.  According to Jonathan Good, “Every 2 minutes today we snap as many photos as the whole of humanity took in the 1800s. In fact, ten percent of all the photos we have [in the history of time], were taken in the past 12 months.”[2] And as Jim Gaffigan has eloquently noted, “I have more pictures of my kids than my father ever looked at me.” Although taking pictures can be harmless or even beneficial, there may be unintended negative consequences and dangers that result from living in an image driven culture. We may try to protect ourselves from it, but we have to be aware of the dangers of living in an image driven culture and, in particular, the dangers of raising children and grandchildren in this culture. 

            Several months ago I was at a party with some friends and met a sophomore in high school.  This high-schooler  was a very typical teenager; he was glued to his iPhone and could not stop talking about himself.  He recently posted something on his twitter page and kept checking every minute on who else “liked” his post.  Teenagers (and many young adults) are desperate to know how many people “like” their ideas or pictures.  They are desperate to be acknowledged and recognized; they are desperate for their own glory. This desire for their own glory must be addressed.

            This desire for glory may be most easily seen in young people, but the desire for our own glory is in every human heart.  New technology only gives an expression for the desires that are already in our heart.  Jesus warns us to avoid those who seek their own glory and warns us from being those who seek to steal God’s glory.   

The Great Condemnation of the Glory Stealers

            The scribes, Pharisees and the Sadducees have all challenged Jesus’ authority.  Jesus has answered every challenge raised against his authority, but as he ends this discourse, he directly warns the people about the leaders. Verse 45,

And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (Luke 20:45-47)

The scribes were stealing God’s glory because they were living to draw attention to themselves rather than to God. They were using their spiritual influence for their own prestige. 

            The scribes did not love God, but they used Him.  They used Him for their own comfort and their own prestige. They wore long, flowing expensive robes to draw attention to themselves.  The scribes also loved the special greeting that religious leaders received when entering the marketplace.  And not only did they loved the special greetings in the marketplace, they loved the best seats in the synagogues and at the special feasts.  They were the religious, spiritual leaders, who wore the Armani suits, loved the box seats at the Panthers game, and the free meals downtown.  None of these things are bad in themselves, but the problem was that they were living for these benefits rather than to God. These were not mere blessings given to the leaders, but the very reason they pursued the ministry.

            Jesus further shows why the scribes should not be followed. The scribes were using God for his blessings without actually serving God. Jesus said they were devouring widows’ houses.  Scholar Darrell Bock notes,

Jesus pictures destruction when he speaks of the scribes “devouring” the houses of widows. They take from the group most in need and leave them devastated. The nature of this crime is not detailed, but four possibilities are suggested: (1) the temple authorities managed the property of widows dedicated to the temple in a way that took advantage of them (Ellis 1974: 239), (2) the scribes took advantage of widows’ hospitality (Jeremias 1969: 114), (3) the scribes took homes as pledges of debts they knew could not be repaid (Leaney 1958: 256), or (4) they took fees for legal advise against the provisions of the law (Stählin, TDNT 9:445). [3]

Instead giving to those most in need, the scribes took from them. 

They were religious leaders acting in a false religion. James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

Their religion was false and defiled before God because they were full of the world and did not care for those most in need. This was why Jesus warned the people of them.  The warning was necessary because out of pretense the scribes made long prayers. They wanted to show the people how spiritual and religious they were with their lofty and long prayers, but their lives did not match their profession. 

            And the true warning comes with the last sentence, “They will receive the greater condemnation.” The end of the scribes is woe, because they are not true disciples. They lived for themselves and did not care about the needs of others.  They made great boasts with their mouths, but their lives were far from God.  Many of have seen this first hand with Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker and the PTL Scandal up the road in Fort Mill in the mid-80’s.  A few months ago, Roland Drye, pastor of Inspiration Baptist Church told a story of how PTL followers tried to work their way into his church.  He held a members meeting and warned everyone from falling under the influence of PTL and the Bakkers.  Secret meetings continued to happen, so Pastor Drye and a deacon went to confront the organizers of the meeting.  As the conversation continued, the organizer started getting angry and agitated and Roland just started laughing.  He said at that moment, the Holy Spirit revealed to everyone there who was in him and what was in the follower of the Bakkers. 

            Beloved, the likes of Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker are still around.  They may look different, but their end is the same.  Beware not to fall under the influence of popular preachers who use God for his blessings without living connected to the true gospel.  But you do not only need to be careful of those false preachers, but you have to be careful not to follow in their steps. We follow in the steps of the scribes when we seek to steal glory that only belongs to God.  Do we desire for people to see us or to see the God we serve?  In our ever increasing technological world, we must be thoughtful and humble to give all honor and praise to God.  We need to shift the glory from ourselves to God.

The Great Commendation of the Glory Shifters

            Jesus criticizes the leaders to his disciples within earshot of the people.  He wanted the people to hear his warning, but after a warning of who not to follow, we get a picture of who to follow. Verses 21:1-4,

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Throughout the temple, there were offering boxes where people gave freewill offerings to offset the costs of temple worship.  Jesus looked and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box and he also saw a woman put in two small copper coins.  The two coins were “lepta” the smallest currency equaling 1/100th of the average daily wage.  It would have been easily identifiable by its size.  It was an extremely small sum, but Jesus draws attention to its very high value in saying, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

            Jesus uses the word “penichros” here referring to someone who is intensely poor and in need. This widow is in sharp contrast to the scribes mentioned above.  She did not have long, flowing expensive robes or the best seats at the feasts. She had nothing, and yet she contributed to the Lord’s work out of her poverty. Indeed there were others who gave more money than this widow, but there was not anyone who gave more than she did.  Her giving costs her the most because her gift came with the greatest sacrifice.  She gave all she had to live on and therefore, showed the greatest love. Her sacrificial giving revealed her love for God.

            There are several important applications we can draw from this passage.  First, Jesus sees the real costs of your giving.  As we have seen several places throughout Luke’s gospel, how we handle our physical resources is an indication of our spiritual condition.  No one but the Lord knows the true cost of your giving.  The world may look at the dollar amount, but the Lord looks at the sacrifice.  The Lord sees what your giving costs you and he will commend you for it. We have many widows in our church who give with the same heart as this woman. A refrain that I often hear from our widows is “I wish I could give more.”  Beloved, the Lord sees your true sacrifice. You may feel that the amount is small, but your “small gift” may worth more than all the rest. Take comfort that Lord sees the heart in your giving. He sees how you desire to shift the glory to God through your sacrifice.  This passage shows us who the real “big tithers!” are. It is not the ones who give the most money, but give up the most to give their money.

Second, Jesus is not putting down the contributions of others.  He is highlighting the sacrificial giving of one of the saints, but not discounting the giving of others.  Both the rich and the poor were contributing to keep up the ministry of the temple worship. This morning, we voted on our church budget for the coming year.  Putting together a budget can often be a challenging time in the life of the church. Our finance committee has worked hard to ensure that we are being good stewards of our resources.  We want to spend our money wisely and yet want to be generous in pursuing ministry of the lost and the building up of the saints. The budget we voted on today is our family budget.  We all have an obligation to work to meet the needs of our budget. How does your giving compare to this widow? What does your giving cost you?

It can be awkward for a pastor to speak about giving.  It is easy for people to think that the only reason that ministers talk about money is because our salaries are provided for by the church. Hear me, I do not want to know the amount you give, but that doesn’t mean that I do not care what you give.  If giving is an indication of your heart, than what kind of pastor would I be if I didn’t care about your giving? Money shows our priorities. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) God wants you to show that He is your priority and your treasure with how you use your money.  People see your priorities. Our priorities reveal our loves. We have the opportunity to show the world that we treasure Christ above the things of this world with how we spend our money. 

There are some of you who need to give more to the needs of the church.  Take a hard look at your spending and look for areas where you can cut so that you can give more.  Jesus commended the poor widow, because she contributed out of her poverty.  You will never regret sacrificing your earthly comfort for God’s glory.  Live to shift the glory off of yourselves to God.

Beloved, this widow was commended because she gave like Jesus Christ.  She gave all she had as Jesus Christ gave all that He had for God’s glory. Jesus gave his life for the sheep.  Jesus says in John 10,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:11-18)

Jesus laid down his life for his sheep. He gave all that he had for the glory of God.  The one who deserved all glory gave his life so that sinners could be reconciled to God. And after he laid down his life in death, God raised him from the dead offering hope to the world. For if anyone turns from their sin and trusts in Christ sacrifice on their behalf they will receive eternal life. 

            Jesus Christ is not asking you to do anything that He has not already done. Jesus Christ gave all that he had to give God glory. And know the reason that God gave all that he had was because of his love for the sheep.  1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” The motivation for Jesus giving all that he had was His love for the Father and his love for his sheep. 

Our lives should be motivated by the same love.  We show our love for God in how we are willing to lay down our lives for Christ and the sheep.  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. He gave all that he had for us.  If Christ did that for us, then what are you willing to lay down?  Are you willing to lay down your hobbies? Or your cable? Or traveling? Or children’s activities? Or lattes at Starbucks? The church will never fully display God’s glory until we are willing to love God more than the things of this world. The reason we do not give more is because we do not love more.  The more we love God, the more we will delight in giving to his glory.

We should never give in drudgery, but in joy. In love, Christ gave all that he had, should we not desire to do the same?   

[3] Bock, D. L. (1996). Luke: 9:51–24:53 (Vol. 2, p. 1643). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
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